- Category: Anecdotes
- Published on Sunday, 26 April 2015 15:33
- Written by Christopher Sanders
The thing about AirBnB is that, no matter how many reviews you read, you’ll never be quite sure what you’re going to get. When my girlfriend and I visited Bruges, we stayed with a woman, a psychiatrist in fact, and her son in a pleasant little 2-story home. It was clean, modern, comfortable, and yet something nagged at us. It wasn’t until the next morning that we realized we were staying in the room of the good doctor’s late teen daughter. The poor, deceased young woman’s things still occupied space in the room; her presence lingered. Couple that with the medieval cemetery half a block away, and you got a rather unsettling vibe from the place.
My first foray into AirBnB came during my brief trip to Greece a couple of years ago. I planned to spend 2 nights, 3 days in the coastal city of Thessaloniki, for the purpose of, I mistakenly thought, of resting my Turkish tourist visa. The place I selected was a little outside the city center, but I estimated that it was still within walking distance of things I would want to see. Of course, just about everything is within walking distance, it just a matter of how long you’ll have to walk to get there. My bad on that one. The place itself was quintessentially Greek: spacious, colorful, lively, and run-down. Its best days were behind it. The owner’s dog had free range of the house when I was out. Either that, or the years of accumulated dog dander settled on my clothes and gear. I’d believe either case. Still, I gave the stay high marks in my post-visit report. A negative comment can be devastating to an AirBnB’er and her future renters.
On our most recent trip, we stayed in an apartment belonging to ambiguously French-Asian family. It seemed to be a spare apartment, small but clean. Perhaps a little too clean. From the second the hostess opened the door, a gas cloud of lavender and lemon-freshness engulfed us, like some modern day re-enactment of World War I gas attacks. Weirder still, the entire apartment was seriously overstocked with furniture. In the bedroom, all the accoutrements seemed to have been picked up from an auction of a cheesy Greek-themed nightclub. The oversized dressed and wardrobe and tables and display shelves were made of cheapish industrial stone made to look like sepia-toned marble. The hallway and the small living room were much the same. The abundance of furniture left little room for movement. It was gaudily claustrophobic.
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I had one friend who put her studio apartment up on AirBnB awhile ago. I’m not sure if it was necessarily her intention when she listed it, but it essentially became a way for her to hook-up with intriguing strangers. And really, isn’t at what the sharing economy is all about?
- Category: Meta
- Published on Sunday, 11 January 2015 13:16
- Written by Douglas Vautour
Yeah, we don't update a lot. And we probably won't update a lot in the future. I can't speak for Chris, but hitting mid-30s with no career kinda made me realize I should be working more. It has also made me fairly depressed, which can be a job on it's own. I alternate between the two.
And so, I don't update here often. However, we are still active on these Internets, and will post periodically. However, If you want to go to the source, check out these few places.
I'm (Doug) is more active on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/user/twokilosofbread) with travel videos and indie music from South Korea, and is working on concert and travel photography at http://www.facebook.com/DouglasVautourPhotography)
So, yeah. Happy New Year! Chris, well we can talk about this later. Haha (Nervous laughter)
Here's some new stuff from Nice Legs to get your year started right. They planned out New Years so you don't have to. It's magical.
- Category: Music
- Published on Wednesday, 17 December 2014 22:15
- Written by Dan Leonard
Every year we’re bombarded with atrocious Christmas music. Overplayed standards, crapped out Christmas covers, and lame holiday parodies can be enough to make you want to jam an icicle in your ear by Thanksgiving, but there are some diamonds in the rough. I’ve logged more hours than I’m proud of scouring old Christmas compilations, discographies from my favorite bands, top 25 lists from music blogs, and Youtube playlists to find these. So pour yourself an eggnog spiked with a nice whiskey, and check out these Christmas songs that don’t suck.
Christmas songs from the 1960s that don’t suck are as rare as Santa sightings outside of the mall. If carolers came to my door singing this instead of overplayed standards, I’d invite them in for eggnog and tell them to come back next year. Why aren’t they playing this on a loop in my local department store, anyway?
Holiday Cheer Index: 3.5
I have no idea why these ladies are wearing helmets, but they’re singing about the saddest possible kind of Christmas in Korea, spending it without a boyfriend, and they still manage to make it sound absolutely freaking adorable. This is probably the greatest Korean Christmas song ever made, but that’s because Crayon Pop’s only competition is dreck like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lxb0gd8ytjE
Holiday Cheer Index: 3.5
I know what you’re thinking, how can any comedy cover of the Twelve Days of Christmas top Bob and Doug McKenzie’s? Obviously no one can, but this year the normally foul-mouthed San Francisco singer-songwriter Rachel Lark is giving them a run for their money. She may have inadvertently stolen her album title Hung for the Holidays from 2004 American Idol contestant William Hung, but that’s all the more reason to kick her a few bucks to help with her legal defense fund, right?
As we learned two years ago from Shonen Knife, Japan knows how to make a damn exciting Christmas song. This one tops “Space Christmas” in terms of excitement level, so I don’t recommend watching this video if you have a heart condition or seizure disorder. Korea, I say this out of love: some day you too can make a Christmas song as awesome as this song.
Holiday Cheer Index: 5
If your family or office’s Christmas party needs an excuse to twerk, here’s the song for you.
Holiday Cheer Index: 3
I try not to think too much about my exes on Christmas Day, but when I do, I try be more like Cracker than Fall Out Boy. Cheap wine and poppin’ pills makes that easier.
Holiday Cheer Index: 3.5
Not a lot of Christmas songs look at the Nativity story from Joseph’s point of view. Here’s one that does, and it’s touching without being preachy.
Holiday Cheer Index: 4
For some reason, Christmas cuckolding is less heartwarming when it isn’t God giving it to your significant other.
Holiday Cheer Index: 2
I have no idea what Kristin Hersh is talking about in this song, but someone reminds her of Santa Claus, so this is a Christmas song, OK? Maybe she’s singing about the guy wearing Santa’s beard in the They Might Be Giants song?
Holiday Cheer Index: 1.5
Not everyone with a mental illness is suspicious of Christmas, as the late great schizophrenic rock star Wesley Willis teaches us. If you have no idea what Christmas is about, Wesley Willis can clear that up for you, too.
Holiday Cheer Index: 4
I’m pretty sure that every single country Christmas song ever recorded is meant to send its listeners into a suicidal depression. If that’s what you’re looking for this holiday season, this is the cream of the tragic Christmas crop.
Holiday Cheer Index: 1
This gem is from Target’s 2010 surprisingly good free album, The Christmas Gig. I had to look up the lyrics to see if this song actually mentions the word Christmas. It doesn’t. But damn does it capture the mindset of a Cocoa Puff-addled 6-year old me waiting to open those presents sitting under the tree.
Holiday Cheer Index: 4.5
Believe it or not, with seven Christmas albums, James Brown has made almost as many original Christmas songs as Sufjian Stevens. And yes, they all sound exactly like you’d expect James Brown singing about Christmas to sound. This is James Brown trying to bring us peace on Earth, and if he couldn’t, who can?
Holiday Cheer Index: 2.5
If you love non-traditional Christmas movies like The Mothman Prophecies, First Blood and Jarhead as much as I do, you’re going to have to re-watch Tommy. If you’ve never watched Tommy before, get on that. If you just listen to the song, it’s tempting to dismiss this as a Christmas song because it only mentions the word “Christmas” twice (not including the title) – although that’s good enough for me. If that’s not good enough for you, the scene in the movie is as Christmassy as it gets showing all the trappings of what this American can only assume is a traditional UK Christmas celebration: Christmas crackers, paper crowns, lots of booze, and disapproving glares from the whole family.
Christmas Cheer Index: 1.5 (audio) / 4 (video)
Punk rockers can be enthusiastic about Christmas, who knew? Fans of The Vandals, that’s who. I’ve been surprised by the number of good, cheerful, and original punk rock Christmas songs are out there. Here’s another fun one. If I’m ever in the UK for Christmas, I hope I can spend it at the Reuben household instead of Tommy’s.
Christmas Cheer Index: 4.5
- Category: Destinations
- Published on Wednesday, 17 December 2014 07:25
- Written by Douglas Vautour
Not bad for a weekend trip - Matabungkay Beach, Batangas, Philippines
I'm addicted to checking airline and aggregator websites. It's better than any porn even the Germans have to offer. (No mom, I have not been watching German porn again. I have been watching German porn again.) So, when 200 USD flights from Korea to Manila, I booked that shit as fast as I could clean off my keyboard.
Manila feels like the combination of a South East Asian city with an American one. There are shanty towns and malls, dirty rivers and top-notch swimming facilities. These various parts of the city could really fit in almost anywhere on the planet. Honestly, overall it was pretty nice. It didn't seem to be the hole that everyone claims it is. Well, except for the traffic. The traffic is hellish. Just don't get in a car during rush hour. Hours. Like after 5pm.
A friend and I were there for the weekend. We spent a day in the city, seeing the sights, and then a day out of the city, a three hour drive for a few hours of relaxation on the beach. Everything wrapped up nicely, and we managed to get out just before Typhoon Hagupit shut down the airport.
So, in summary. It's fine, and here are some photos. A lot of churchy stuff, because it looked cool, oh, and an island volcano.
- Category: Events
- Published on Wednesday, 19 November 2014 19:28
- Written by Christopher Sanders
Istanbul is an enormous, dynamic megapolis, home to ancient ruins and modern wonders alike. Events of every kind occur here with whiplash frequency. Just this weekend, to take but one example, there was a fun-run and marathon spanning Asia and Europe, a giant art festival, cupcake classes, and much else. The one that had me most excited, though, was the the much-touted Istanbul Kitap Fuarı, aka the Book Fair.
Do not go to the Istanbul Book Fair.
At least not if you're looking for books in languages other than Turkish. The so-called International Hall was completely devoid of vendors when we went. They must have only been there for the first weekend. And at any rate, the list of international exhibitors wasn't exactly a cornucopia of well-known publishers, and none of them were from English-speaking countries. We found a few English titles, including a number by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, at Red House, with prohibitively high price tags. Another publisher had new editions of public domain classics. The second-hand aisle had the usual collection of Grishams, Cusslers, and Pattersons. Overall, for me, a bust.
On the other hand, if you're Turkish, or can read Turkish well-enough to digest a novel, it would be a pretty cool event, with every major, and most minor, publishers showcasing a truly awesome array of works, and a small battalion of authors doing signings (the most popular of which had occupied the otherwise deserted International Hall, with long lines winding through what looked exactly like cattle corrals). Indeed, it would be really worth visiting...if it wasn't way the hell out in Beylikdüzü. We witnessed 2 almost-riots at Metrobus stops, and the trip from Topkapi to Beylikdüzü was almost the same length as my flight to Genoa will be in January.
Seriously, the Metrobus situation was actually scary, and not just because I almost never use it and still find it a little baffling. If you've never had the, ahem, pleasure of taking the Metrobus, imagine a suitcase being packed for a long journey by an inexperienced traveler. He squeezes all the clothes and toiletries and do-dads he thinks he needs into the poor bag. Then he realizes that even though its not monsoon season and he's no-where near the tropical seas, he better take a week's worth of rain-resistant outerwear. Ditto freak cold weather gear. The suitcase is creaking at the seams; by the laws of physics, it can hold no more. Yet he tries to push one more little thing in.
That's the Metrobus. At one station, Topkapı, so many people were waiting for the Beylikdüzü-bound buses, and the buses pull-up somewhat randomly along the extended platform, a surge of desperate passengers swarmed towards the oncoming bus. People shoved and were shoved. Yelling ensued, and possibly fisticuffs. I was nearly knocked off my feet by the mass of humans behind me. An old man nearby was shoved off the curb and barely missed hitting his head on the side of the bus. It was madness.
At the final stop, where the Tüyap fairgrounds are, another scene of chaos and violence erupted. The turnstiles at the end of the terminal provided the only point of ingress and egress. The turnstiles were ten in number (I believe, but do not quote me on that) and istead of having some designated solely for entry and others soley exit, all were switched to allow entry. Given that there were, quite literally, at least 700, and very likely more than that, people attempting to enter the platform, and at least 200 or 300 people wanting to exit, things got very tense. For a time, the exiters had managed to wrest control of the last turnstile and a steady trickle of us were escaping. Somehow, though, the opposing force slipped in and a great deluge of wannabe bus riders poured through, blocking our only means of escape. One man near me became agitated to the point of rage and began to scream at the people pushing through the turnstile. Others were reaching over the barricade, trying to push or block more people from approaching. More yelling, more pushing as bus after bus arrived, disgorging their double-bus loads onto the cold and wet plaza. A woman came through the turnstile despite the crowds yelling at the incomers to please, for the love of Allah, stop. The guy near me who started the chorus of frustrated yells stomped up to her, shoved his stubbly face right into hers, and, gesticulating wildly, made his case for why she was a horrible person. For a moment, it looked like violence would ensue, but, miracle of miracles, the exiters recaptured the turnstile and we could again flee the Metrobus terminal. I have no doubt similar eruptions of near-violence recurred after we left, as, again literally, thousands of people were crossing the pedestrian overpass from the fairgrounds to the bus stop. If ever I needed a reminder that Istanbul is the 6th largest city in the world, the Metrobus would be it.
The Book Fair was not a total bust, though. My girlfriend got a calendar from wonderfully weird Uykusuz (Sleepless) and a 3000 piece puzzle. Neither of these are books, but what are you gonna do?
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- Category: Destinations
- Published on Sunday, 09 November 2014 14:11
- Written by Douglas Vautour
Mungyeong is known to Koreans for two things, apples and the Mungyeong Saejae, three gates along an old foot path from Seoul to the south. I've heard a lot of hype about these gates, and I'm just going to lay it out for ya. They're gates. In the woods. They look like all the other gates everywhere else in the country, but these ones are 5 km from the entrance of the park. They're gates.
It's a gate. And a bridge.
I mean, they're not unpleasant to look at, but they're not really a special reason to head to Mungyeong.
So, get to the twist, you're asking, having already read the title like a smart little netican. Yes, yes, I'm on it. KBS, one of the three major channels in Korea has built a convincing film set in the shape of an old Korean village next door. It's complete with upper and lower class areas, a market, and a palace of sorts.
Intricate Details for 1080p viewers
While I can't determine it's authenticity (anyone want to pipe in?), they did a good job at making it feel like an actual village. The buildings were minutely detailed, the market had convincing looking items for sale in each of the stalls, and the actors kinda looked the part. Oh yeah, there were actors. Look at this mess.
Explain the shot they're taking. How does this even work?
So, this guy is standing there, wearing a hanbok (Korean traditional garb), while the cart zooms 30km/hr. He's like holding a sword or something, but he's not actually moving. He's motionless, the car ride is reasonably smooth, and the camera is probably just picking up the tops of the buildings. I stood there wracking by brain to figure out how this was going to work in a show, and the best I could figure out was one of the two following options.
1. Flying martial arts. This is more Hong Kong style, but maybe they're branching out?
2. Horse riding. Perhaps they've only got him and the sky, so you can't see how uniform the motion is?
Whatever. Maybe I just don't understand their vision, and it's not like they're known for historical accuracy anyway. Maybe they invented cars but had their secrets stolen by the Japanese?
Okay, okay, low blow.
The actors are doing normal human things between shoots, so you can get your "traditional-guy-checking-his-cellphone" shot and a host of others you wouldn't normally see, like "traditional-guy-eats-lunch-from-catering" or "traditional-guy-gets-makeup-done". It's pretty cool.
Mungyeong (문경시외터미널) is about two hours south of Seoul by bus from Seoul's East Bus Terminal (동서울 터미널). Don't take the bus from the Express Bus Terminal, as it goes to the Jeomchon terminal (점촌터미널), which is in a completely different part of the city. From the Mungyeong Bus Terminal, it's a short taxi (maybe 4000 won?) to Mungyeong Saejae park. The park has three historic gates, each about three kilometers apart. The trek is pretty easy, despite the length. The KBS film set village is just after the first gate, and costs 2,000 won. The main park is free.